What’s Your Next Step in Planning?

Bailey has noticed that I talk to other cars a lot when I’m driving. When someone’s being slow I might say, “Come on out there, buddy, pull right out there.” Or “come on, you can do it,” when they hesitate just a little too long before pulling out so I can go.

As with just about everything in life, this reminds me of planning. No matter how much I talk to the other drivers in those cars, it doesn’t really do a whole lot of good. And that’s just like planning. Talking about planning doesn’t actually do any good, unless you do something about it. Whether that’s nursing home planning, estate planning, death planning, life care planning or special needs planning, talking about it or even coming to workshops and learning more doesn’t do any good unless you move ahead.

So what’s your next step in planning?

1. Attend a workshop – If you already know a little bit about planning, and want to know what it would be like to work with Edwards Group, we encourage you to check out a workshop. In addition to getting valuable information about the process, you’ll get to meet David and have the opportunity to ask him questions.

To attend a workshop, just give us a call at 217-726-9200 to reserve yourself a spot. (Our workshops tend to fill up, so we want to make sure everyone has a seat.)

2. Call to schedule your Initial Meeting – At your initial meeting, which usually lasts about 45 minutes, we will review your concerns and goals. An attorney will also help you understand the unique risks facing your family. Clients find this meeting to be very valuable in helping them understand their options. By the end of the meeting, you should understand your planning options, what they will cost and whether Edwards Group is the right firm for you. There will be no hard sale. We want all of our clients to feel comfortable before starting to work with us. It’s one of the keys to drafting a successful plan.

Did you know that Tarina was a client before she started working at Edwards Group? And one of her favorite parts of the job is talking to people who have questions or might be a little nervous about starting the process of planning. If you have any questions at all, she’d be happy to chat with you. Just give her a call at 217-726-9200.

3. Help your friends and family learn more – If you’ve already worked with us and had a positive experience, we encourage you to share all you’ve learned along the way with friends and loved ones who might need to know what you now know.

The most important part of creating an effective plan and achieving peace of mind is actually taking a step forward. Many people think about planning for years… and then all of a sudden it can be too late. Effective planning is much easier achieved before a crisis hits.
Which next action step do you need to take today?

3 Estate Planning Questions to Start the New Year

Fresh starts are really nice sometimes. “Out with the old, in with the new” can be energizing. Many people procrastinate when it comes to their estate plan, thinking, “Oh, I’ll never really need it.” But the truth is, everyone will need one at some point.

Why not start off the New Year with some peace of mind and take a minute to reflect on the state of your plan? Here are 3 things to consider heading into this New Year:

  1. Should your plan be changed to reflect changes in your life? Like a change in marital status or the birth of a child or grandchild.
  2. Did you acquire any new assets in 2013 that might impact your plan?
  3. Are your executors and trustees still the right people for the job?

There are many other considerations, but these three are a good start. As always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to call our office. We’d love to speak with you. And be sure to check out our upcoming workshops.

Can your estate plan pass the Down Low test?

What a Child’s Game Can Teach us About Planning…

In our house, the “Down Low, Too Slow” game is very popular. It goes like this:

Give me five (hand slap)

Way up high (another hand slap)

Down low (pull hand away before it can get slapped)

Too slow!!

It always gets a laugh out of the kids. Even after the 10th time in a row!

“Up High, Down Low” is also good estate planning advice. A good plan will include:

  1. NOW – look at your situation, finances, family. What are your goals and risks?
  2. UP HIGH – look at the older generation. When the older generation passes, will they be leaving you an inheritance that could create estate tax problems for you? Will they face nursing home costs that could impact the family? Will their lack of planning give you more stress later or more conflict with other siblings?
  3. DOWN LOW – look at your kids and grandkids. What is their financial situation? How will an inheritance impact them? Will they be ready for it? Will your daughter-in-law spend it all? Will it lead to extra taxes for the kids?

A good estate plan considers those older and younger than you. If you’re not sure about the state of your plan, give us a call at 217-726-9200. We’ll be happy to chat with you.

estate planning quiz

Estate Planning Quiz: 8 Questions to Help You Know Where You Stand

The following quiz helps you identify weak spots in your estate planning. For many people an estate plan just means a will, but oftentimes that is not enough to accomplish the goals you have or to protect your loved ones. Honestly answering these 8 questions will help you know if your plan needs more work.

  1. How old is your will? (Changing life circumstances, such as marriages, divorces, etc. can impact old wills.)
  2. Who would manage your finances if you had a stroke?
  3. Is your legal and financial information organized and easy to find?
  4. Do you know whether your estate would avoid probate court? (A time-consuming and expensive process.)
  5. Do you know whether you will owe estate taxes?
  6. If you have an IRA or Annuity, do you know when (or if) your family will have to pay taxes on it?
  7. If something happened to you tomorrow, would your family know what to do?
  8. Are your loved ones (kids, grandkids, etc.) as good with money as you are?

If you don’t know the answers to some of these questions, it’s time to learn more about effective estate planning.

Here are some next action steps to take:

  • Explore our website. Our website is here to be an educational resource to anyone who wants to learn more about effective estate planning. We are passionate about helping people plan because we see the good that can come of it when it’s done properly, and, unfortunately, we see everyday the heartbreak that ineffective (or no) planning can cause.
  • Sign up for our e-newsletter. Our bi-weekly newsletter aims to help people learn more about planning and learn more about Edwards Group. Through this weekly email we share insights and stories about proper planning and why it’s so important. We also know that trust is vital in forming a strong relationship with our clients, so we help people get to know us by sharing things like vacation pics from David’s latest family trip.
  • Attend a free workshop. Education is a core foundation of Edwards Group, so in addition to our website and e-newsletter, attending a free workshop is another great way to learn more about effective planning. Our current workshop is Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind.
  • Get started today. If you’re ready to jump right in and get started, all you have to do is call us and schedule an Initial Meeting with an attorney. At the Initial Meeting, we will review your concerns and goals, then the attorney will help you understand the unique risks facing your family. Call 217-726-9200 and one of our team members will happy to help you get started.
  • Hope things will just work out. This is, frankly, the easiest thing to do, and sadly, the worst thing you can do for your family. Estate plans aren’t really about you and what happens when you die. They are about what type of life your family will have after you’re gone. Procrastination is the greatest threat to protecting your family. We have designed our process to make it as easy as possible for people to take the next step, but we can’t pick up the phone for you… If the unthinkable happens, will your lack of planning make things harder on your family?

As always, we’re just a phone call away. If you’re unsure of what your next step should be, or even if you need a next step, we’d be happy to chat with you on the phone. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are passionate about helping families just like yours, and it is all we do everyday.

What Estate Planning Attorneys Do

Sometimes there’s confusion about what we really do around here. We ARE NOT financial advisors who sell financial products or invest money.

Some of the things we do are:

  1. Use legal tools like wills, trusts, deeds and LLC’s to accomplish your goals and carry out your wishes.
  2. Coordinate your assets with your goals.
  3. Counsel and guide you in making the best decisions for your unique situation.
  4. Consult with your accountant and financial advisor to make it all fit together.
  5. Understand how financial tools such as life insurance, annuities or IRA‘s impact your legal wishes.
  6. Help maximize Medicaid or VA benefits for long-term care.

Find out more about effective planning across the lifespan here, or by attending an upcoming workshop. Call us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP today. (Get the dates here.). If you already know that we’re a good fit and you want to get started with your planning right away, just give us a call to set up your Initial Meeting.

elder fraud

Granny We Need to Talk: Questions that Can Stop Elder Fraud in Its Tracks

In our past two posts we talked about how Elder Fraud is on the rise and the types of fraud to look out for. Here are 7 questions to ask your friends and loved ones that can raise red flags about the possibility that they are being set up as a target for Elder Fraud:

  1. Have you had any recent phone calls or solicitations? (Cold-calling is still a very effective way to take advantage of seniors.)
  2. Has anyone recently asked to obtain your Power of Attorney?
  3. Has anyone with regular access to the home asked for financial information?
  4. Is a financial advisor pushing you to move money or purchase a financial product that you don’t understand or sounds “too good to be true”?
  5. Has anyone asked to borrow money?
  6. Has anyone borrowed things from you and not returned them?
  7. Are you donating to any new charities that you have not previously supported?

Maintaining this sort of dialogue with neighbors, friends and professionals connected with your older relatives could stop fraud in its tracks.

Granny Got Robbed: A Series on Elder Fraud

When you see an article in the paper about a senior being taken advantage of, it often involves a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a great legal tool that lets someone else help you pay your bills or manage finances and property. But, watch out! If you name the wrong person, you have given them power that could be used for good or evil.

Sadly, elder fraud is on the rise. Sometimes it’s done by those you know, using authority you gave them, as a power of attorney or a trustee. But it can also be a stranger taking advantage. There are generally two categories of Elder Fraud:

  1. Fraud by a stranger
  2. Fraud from someone known (like a caregiver or a family member)

What is the solution?

Good planning and help by professionals you trust, such as your attorney, accountant and financial advisor can definitely reduce the risk of fraud. Often the worst cases of fraud are where someone refuses to trust anyone, and then when it’s too late for anyone to help legitimately, a conman (or woman) moves in because the person is so desperate for help.

In our next post we’ll take a look at the different types of fraud that strangers and family members can carry out, so you’ll know what to look for.

Be sure to share this with friends, family and neighbors who may need this information.


Post-it Notes Are Not Legally Binding

I once heard of someone asking her grandchildren to go around the house putting Post-it notes on the things they wanted after she was gone. Is it enough to put Post-it notes on things in your house to say who gets them after your death? I suppose it’s better than nothing, but there are definitely problems that might introduce:

  1. What if they fall off?
  2. What if someone take the Post-its or moves them around?
  3. What about items without a Post-it note?

Of course Post-it notes are not a legally binding way to transfer your property after death. Instead, you should put these instructions in your will or trust, or add them to your “special stuff list.”

What is the “special stuff list”? It’s a list, authorized by your will or trust, that specifies where you want items to go (such as family heirlooms, jewelry, collectibles, etc.). Once you sign and date the “special stuff list,” be sure to keep the list with your important papers, plus send a copy to your attorney so it will be available later.

Personal property disputes are often at the root of the most difficult family conflicts. Make sure your family knows your wishes.

Get your FREE “Special Stuff” List Worksheet here.

life care planning

8 Keys to Effective Long-Term Care Planning

Long-term Care Planning is one of the biggest issues facing aging adults today. With experts projecting that nearly 70% of all individuals needing long-term care at some point in their life, the issue cannot be ignored. And yet, many surveys and statistics are showing that people are doing just that. Without proper planning, the need for long-term care can be the single greatest crisis that an aging person will face in their lifetime. (Source: National Care Planning Council)

Keys to Effective Long-term Care Planning

  1. Plan Ahead. The longer you wait to plan, the less options will be available. Financial options such as long-term care insurance may become unavailable or too expensive. Legal options such as irrevocable trusts or gifting strategies will not be as effective if they are implemented later in life. The earlier you plan, the better. Read about the 5 life stage of planning here.
  2. Maximize Your Benefits. Get legal advice to maximize available benefits such as Veterans benefits or Medicaid. Many families are unaware of the possible benefits they could legally receive.
  3. Veterans, Don’t Miss Out. Many Veterans miss out on VA benefits they qualify for and earned through their service to our country. Widows may qualify for benefits as well. So, even if the Veteran is deceased, his widow should get advice from a qualified professional on possible Veterans benefits available to her.
  4. It’s Never Too Late to Plan. Even if someone is already in a nursing home, there still may be legal strategies to maximize benefits.
  5. Don’t Rely on “Free” Advice. Some families are told informally by their nursing facility or social worker to just spend down all the assets before seeking other benefits. By seeking the advice of an experienced professional who works with these issues everyday, families may discover other planning options.
  6. Long-term Care Insurance Gives You the Best (and most) Options. If you qualify, and can afford, long-term care insurance, then that is often the best strategy. Long-term care insurance gives the most options for protecting assets, staying at home, and having more free choice as to which facility you can enter when the time comes. Read “Should I buy long-term care insurance?” here.
  7. Beware of Jointly Owned Property. If you own property jointly with others (siblings, parents, friends) then their lack of long-term planning could impact you. If they need care, the property may end up with a lien and then you may be forced to pay off the lien or sell the property.
  8. Watch Out for Gifting Without a Master Plan. Suppose someone is unconcerned about long-term care, but decides to give away large gifts to their children. Later, if care is needed, those gifts may cause a problem when applying for Medicaid benefits.

Are you putting off long-term care planning? If so, you’re putting yourself and your family at great risk of financial and emotional hardship. If you’d like our help in creating a long-term care plan give us a call at 217-726-9200! If you already have a loved one in a nursing home, we can help you identify areas in which you may be missing benefits that can help ease the burden of paying for a nursing home. Our Elder Care Advisors help families everyday with this stressful time of life.

Helping Our Kids to Be Prepared Never Ends

“No, I don’t want you to take me on my first day. I want to ride the bus!”

That wasn’t what my daughter said to me last week before going off to Kindergarten. That’s what I told my mom when I started Kindergarten back in the 70’s.

Bailey’s question was, “Daddy, what will we do in Kindergarten?”

She reached a big milestone last week when she started school just a few blocks from our house. It’s hard to believe she’s already old enough. As a parent, I want to prepare her for what’s ahead. But providing school supplies, a lunch box, new clothes, etc. was only part of getting her ready for what’s ahead. How do we get her ready to face new people and new challenges she’s never experienced before? One of the things Michelle and I did was tell her what we remembered from Kindergarten (all those years ago!) and tried to help her picture what to expect.

As parents, we do our best to prepare our kids for Kindergarten and other new life stages as they’re growing up. But how well have we prepared our kids to deal with our aging or death? Will our plan make it easier and less stressful for our family when the time comes? Or will it leave them feeling stressed, anxious and underprepared? The choice is yours to make, but you don’t have to create a plan on your own. Everyday we help people develop comprehensive estate plans that anticipate any issues that may come up. It’s all we do everyday. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to set up an appointment, attend one of our FREE workshops or sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to learn more.